Why is ITIL Critical in Today’s IT Environment?

Frank App

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There’s a great deal of information available on the Internet regarding ITIL and why it continues to be the industry standard for governing ITSM (Information Technology Service Management) in the enterprise.

However, it can be confusing to read and digest this vast amount of information and come away with a clear understanding of how adopting ITIL processes best practices can benefit an enterprise by lowering IT costs and increasing efficiencies through business process improvements.  This blog will attempt to “connect-the-dots” between ITIL and ITSM, summarize the key benefits of using ITIL and provide insight into why ITIL is critical in today’s IT environment.


1. Understanding the difference between ITIL and ITSM

First, it’s important to understand the relationship between ITIL and ITSM as the two terms are often used interchangeably and misunderstood.  

ITIL is a set of detailed practices that provide a structured but flexible framework that supports effective IT service management (ITSM) that is focused on aligning IT services with the needs of the business.  The guiding principle of ITIL is that an alignment between IT and business strategy is critical and that effective ITSM is necessary to achieve that alignment.  ITIL is a registered trademark of AXELOS and is published as a series of five volumes that address processes related to service strategy, service design, service transition, service operation and continual service improvement.  ITIL maps the entire Service Lifecycle, beginning with the identification of customer needs and drivers of IT requirements, the design and implementation of the service through to the monitoring and continual improvement of the services.  ITIL is flexible and enterprises can pick and choose which practices they want to implement so that the ITSM solutions that result are customized and make sense for the needs of the organization.

ITSM, on the other hand, describes a model or strategic approach for designing, delivering, managing and improving the way IT is used within an organization. The goal of ITSM is to ensure that IT services are aligned with the needs of the business and that the right processes, people and technology are in place so that the organization can meet its business goals.  Simply put, ITSM is what you do to manage the services you deliver to your customers and the ITIL best practices and processes provide a framework that supports the development and management of effective ITSM.  An analogy for those that are “non-technical” is that ITSM is “the IT services umbrella” and ITIL is the framework or spokes that support the umbrella. 

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2. Enterprises Benefit from Adopting ITIL 

As stated, the goal of ITIL is to provide structure for ITSM development using flexible guidelines that lead to a well-defined and effective ITSM.  The top benefits cited by AXELOS and enterprises that have successfully adopted ITIL include the following:

  1. Improvement in the alignment of IT to the business
  2. Improvement in service levels through the delivery of quality IT services
  3. Increased user/customer satisfaction by providing services that meet their needs
  4. Lowered costs and improved IT ROI by implementing the right processes and delivering the right services the first time
  5. Establishment of cost-effective systems for managing the demand for services
  6. Supporting continual business change using best practices while maintaining a stable service environment
  7. Proactive planning and management of business risk and service disruption

3. So why is ITIL Critical Today for Delivering Effective IT Services?

In his white paper, Tobias Muller makes excellent points as to why ITIL and ITSM are still considered important in today’s IT environment.  He states that “Emerging new technologies are changing the way IT operates. Instead of managing hardware and software systems, businesses are increasingly approaching IT as a constant service delivered to support the company’s day-to day-functions.”  This transition to a service-oriented IT architecture underscores the need for implementing a framework like ITIL to support a well-defined and focused ITSM model. Also, CIOs are concerned with delivering cost effective IT services that support the business, the quality of services delivered and the overall bottom line - IT ROI.

When implemented well, processes built in alignment with ITIL guidelines are proven to work. They save money, create efficiencies, introduce a stable structure and facilitate metrics for benchmarking and continual improvement.

Certification in the ITIL process is an excellent way to provide IT staff with a good understanding of ITIL which is a prerequisite to using it to build a framework for ITSM.  Professionals interested in advancing their knowledge of the ITIL framework should consider the five levels of ITIL certifications currently available including Foundation, Practitioner, Intermediate, Expert and Master levels.  Further information can be obtained on the AXELOS website.

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